Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

About that insomnia ...

Insomnia is often overlooked during routine checkups, which not only diminishes the quality of an older person’s life but may also cause or aggravate physical and emotional disorders, including symptoms of cognitive loss.

New York Times

Insomnia is often overlooked during routine checkups, which not only diminishes the quality of an older person’s life but may also cause or aggravate physical and emotional disorders, including symptoms of cognitive loss.

Insomnia is like a thief in the night, robbing millions — especially those older than 60 — of much-needed restorative sleep.

The causes of insomnia are many, and they increase in number and severity as people age. Yet the problem is often overlooked during checkups, which not only diminishes the quality of an older person's life but may also cause or aggravate physical and emotional disorders, including symptoms of cognitive loss.

Most everyone experiences episodic insomnia, a night during which the body seems to have forgotten how to sleep a requisite number of hours, if at all. As distressing as that may seem at the time, it pales in comparison to the effects on people for whom insomnia — difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or awakening much too early — is a nightly affair.

A 1995 National Institute on Aging survey of more than 9,000 people 65 and older revealed that 28 percent had problems falling asleep and 42 percent reported difficulty with both falling asleep and staying asleep. The numbers affected are likely to be much larger now that millions spend their presleep hours looking at electronic screens that can disrupt the body's biological rhythms.

Insomnia, Dr. Alon Y. Avidan says, "is a symptom, not a diagnosis" that can be a clue to an underlying and often treatable health problem and, when it persists, should be taken seriously. Avidan is director of the sleep clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine.

So-called transient insomnia that lasts less than a month may result from a temporary problem at work or an acute illness; short-term insomnia lasting one to six months may stem from a personal financial crisis or loss of a loved one. When insomnia becomes chronic, lasting six months or longer, it can wreak serious physical, emotional and social havoc.

In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, which can be dangerous, Avidan says chronic insomnia "may result in disturbed intellect, impaired cognition, confusion, psychomotor retardation or increased risk for injury." It is often accompanied by depression.

There are two types of insomnia. Primary insomnia results from a problem that occurs only or mainly during sleep, like obstructive sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

The other, more common type of insomnia is secondary to an underlying medical or psychiatric problem; the side effects of medications; behavioral factors like ill-timed exposure to caffeine; or environmental disturbances like excessive noise or light in the bedroom.

Among the many medical conditions that can cause insomnia are heart failure, gastroesophageal reflux, lung disease, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease. Treating the underlying condition often relieves the insomnia.

Nonmedical causes of insomnia can often be treated by practicing "good sleep hygiene": limiting naps to less than 30 minutes a day, preferably early in the afternoon; avoiding stimulants and sedatives; avoiding heavy meals and minimizing liquids within two to three hours of bedtime; getting moderate exercise daily, preferably in the morning or early afternoon; maximizing exposure to bright light during the day; creating comfortable sleep conditions; and going to bed only when you feel sleepy.

If you still can't fall asleep within about 20 minutes in bed, experts recommend leaving the bedroom and doing something relaxing, like reading a book (one printed on paper), and returning to bed when you feel sleepy.

For those who still need help with insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy has proved most effective in clinical trials.

Sleeping pills can be problematic, but over-the-counter remedies like melatonin or valerian, which have more anecdotal evidence than research to attest to their efficacy, are available.

There may also be some useful dietary aids, like bananas, cherries, kiwis, oatmeal, milk and chamomile tea, though evidence for these is also primarily anecdotal.

About that insomnia ... 01/19/17 [Last modified: Thursday, January 19, 2017 5:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Stop talking and start building a new Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was good to see Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, talking Rays baseball and the hope for a new stadium somewhere in Tampa Bay.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is popular with the media on a visit to Tropicana Field.
  2. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. What do kids need to stay away from deadly auto theft epidemic?

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — More than a dozen black teenagers told U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist on Wednesday that children need stronger mentors and youth programs to steer clear of the auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.

    Congressman Charlie Crist (center) listens as Shenyah Ruth (right), a junior at Northeast High School, talks during Wednesday's youth roundtable meeting with community leaders and kids. They met to discuss the ongoing car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth and how law enforcement, elected officials, and community organizations can work together to put an end to this dangerous trend. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. Bucs talk social issues, protests at team meeting

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Each time Dirk Koetter walks through the door of his office at One Buc Place, he passes by the only jersey framed on his wall.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) wears custom cleats to represent Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) as part of the NFL???‚??„?s "My Cause, My Cleats Campaign" before the start of a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.